Updated: Nov 19, 2019
Title: 13 Reason Why (Season 3)
Cast: Dylan Minnette, Justin Prentice, Grace Saif, Christian Navarro, Devin Druid, Brandon Flynn, Ross Butler, Alisha Boe, Timothy Granaderos, Anne Winters, Kate Walsh, Brenda Strong, Steven Weber. Derek Luke.
Produced by: Paramount
Review by: Wade Swift
Rating: 1.5 X's out of 5 X's
Season 3 of this polarizing series continues on it's exploration of real life struggles facing young teenage americans these days. Tackling serious issues such as Depression, Anxiety, Addiction, Abortion, Rape, Suicide, Toxic Masculinity and even Deportation. Let me preface by saying 13 Reasons Why at it's core serves as a platform to bring some insight to parents as to what their teenagers might actually be dealing with in silence, at the same time it promotes self awareness and unity within young adults, providing scenarios that might spark dialogue and education between those experiencing the issues, and close friends and family. One of the beauties of this show is that it gives anyone going through the struggles that come with teenage years and young adulthood, a blueprint for what to potentially say or do in these situations. From both a child and parents perspectives. This show is about looking out for each other. Taking care of ourselves and the ones around us, deploying self-awareness as well as awareness of the people around us.
However, somewhere along the way this show clearly lost sight of that, and season three much like season two sees the showrunners again opting to play more to the proverbial "shock value" than any actual educating or meaningful story building. This season also takes a dramatic shift in it's storytelling, from Hannah Bakers perspective in Season One, to Clay Jensens in Season Two, and now a more narrational format from Season threes new addition "Ani Achola". Ani is a self righteous and aggressively nosey transfer student, who, for whatever reason feels compelled to plunge her hands into the filth of Liberty High in search of answers, in search of the person who murdered Bryce Walker. Oh yeah, while you were away, someone murdered Bryce Walker. If you saw any of the promotional content for this season then you already knew that. The first episode begins with an unfamiliar voice speaking to you while Clay Jensen is being dragged away in handcuffs. The confusion you will undoubtedly feel during that scene, will most likely stay with you throughout the entirety of this season.
This show has become somewhat of a conundrum for me, I'm constantly torn between "it means well" and "this show doesn't care about anything but clickbait & scare tactics". Just when it appears to be harvesting a refreshingly new and informative topic where we might be given some sort of enlightenment or clarity on a subject matter or character, something completely over the top and unnecessary takes center stage. Now don't get me wrong, the extreme lengths this show will go and has gone to prove a point or send a stronger message than some of it's predecessors is one of the main things I loved about this show. Because the real world isn't censored. The real world doesn't sugar coat things. The real world is flagrant and brutal. But at the end of every obstacle life throws at us is always followed by a lesson or useful message. This show, more specifically this season have neither.
Season three is essentially a stripped down version of it's once promising self, and at times begins to feel almost like a parody of itself. Indulging more into cheap tricks like the tiresome "whodunnit" formula they deploy onto our main characters throughout the entirety of this season. With Ani and Clay often behaving more like CSI detectives than out of place 17 year old high school students. Most of which making little to no sense, like why her unrelentingly inquisitive behavior was never met with any type of resistance from a single one of her peers. One thing that will always win points with me however is the dark and ominous tone this show brings, coupled with the intensity of it's actors is really a breath of fresh air in a historically cheesy and cliche bubblegum genre. The combination of the two has proven to be effective when backed with formidable dialogue and a sound storyline, which this season inevitably fails to deliver on both fronts. Don't get me wrong, there are a few really powerful moments & conversations had, in particular with Tyler Down, Justin Foley and Jessica Davis. I truly believe this season could have benefitted greatly from focusing the spotlight more on those three and their individual recoveries & growth as characters. An expanding on the plethora of already established character arches and dilemmas. An important topic this season does address however is sexual assault in the male community with males being the victim, something that doesn't typically make it into popular culture. Again, lots of potential here.